On nanotechnology, experts see more risks than public
2007 11 28

By Marlowe Hood | news.yahoo.com


In a surprising reversal of roles, nanotechnology scientists outrival the general public in seeing a cause for concern in some aspects of their work, according to a study published Sunday.

Nanotechnology -- the science of making things measured in units 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair -- holds spectacular promise in virtually every sector.

Hundreds of consumer products already contain nano materials, most of which are cosmetics, sunscreens and cleaning products with microscopic particles.

But this is the only first step in what promoters of nano say is a revolution whose impact will be outsized compared to the technology's tiny scale.

In medicine, potential applications range from in-body diagnostic devices to tissue engineering to pinpoint drug delivery.

Nanomaterials far lighter and stronger than anything in use today could revolutionise the auto and airplane industries, and parallel developments are underway for robotics, computers, clothing, energy storage and air purification.

Two surveys, conducted among 363 nanotechnology scientists and engineers and among 1,015 US adults, find an intriguing contrast in attitudes about this fast-moving yet untested technology.

The average Joe and Jane are more worried than the experts that nano will cause job losses, an arms race and a loss of privacy, according to the surveys published on Sunday in Nature.

The scientists, unsurprisingly, say their work will lead to major breakthroughs in medicine, environmental cleanup and national defence.

But they are also significantly more concerned than the public about the risk of more pollution and unforeseen health problems from nano.

The authors of the study, led by Dietram Scheufele of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, chalk up this gap in viewpoints to two things.

One is that scientists have already launched a debate among themselves about nano-related risks, and lament a lack of research in this field. At the same time, the media promote the potential benefits of nano and downplay the risk aspect, thus giving a distorted view to the public.

Researchers looking at nano risks are focussing on any effect on health from minute particles that are breathed in to the lungs or from putative nano-robots that would be inserted into the body to repair damaged tissue. Questions have also been raised as to whether nano materials could be toxic, for health and the environment.

"The Nano story is one of very slow and rather weak regulatory responses," commented Nigel Cameron, head of the Institute on Biotechnology and the Human Future at the Illinois Institute of Technology and an expert on nanotechnology.

"Public and political awareness of the technology -- even though we have been talking about it for some time -- is amazingly low," he said in an interview with AFP.

In the past, the arrival of new technologies such as nuclear power or genetically-modified organisms are typically greeted with public enthusiasm followed by disquiet when an accident happens or other risks become apparent.

Such backlashes have had a crippling effect in some countries, prompting a freeze or pullout from nuclear power or a moratorium on genetically-engineered crops.

By addressing the risks before their technology widely enters the public domain, nano experts hope to forestall this backward swing of the pendulum.

"Nanotechnology may... be the first emerging technology for which scientists may have to explain to the public why they should be more rather than less concerned about some potential risks," said Scheufele.

Article from:



Related Articles
Bring on the nanobots, and we will live long and prosper
Chips push through nano-barrier
The Electron, Nanotechnology, and Solar Power
Douglas Mulhall - Nanotechnology, Our Molecular Future (Audio)
Nano-propellers sent for a spin
Antique engines inspire nano chip
Nanogenerator provides continuous power by harvesting energy from the environment
Nanotechnology Risks Unknown
The next big bang: Man meets machine
Better... Stronger... Faster... the engineered human
Physicists have 'solved' mystery of levitation
Berkeley Physicists Make a Radio 10,000 Times Thinner Than a Human Hair
South African Solar Research Eclipses Rest of the World
Aubrey de Grey, Artificial Intelligence, Singularity, Longevity and the Holy Grail
The Creation of Smarter Than Human Intelligence
Maryland's Prometheus
Patent sought on 'synthetic life'
'Darth Venter' (J. Craig Venter) & The Archon Genomics X Prize
The Invincible Man
Lifespan link to antidepressant drug


Latest News from our Front Page

Gene That Once Aided Survival in the Arctic Found to Have Negative Impact on Health Today
2014 10 23
In individuals living in the Arctic, researchers have discovered a gene variant that arose thousands of years ago and most likely provided an evolutionary advantage for processing high-fat diets or for surviving in a cold environment; however, the variant also seems to increase the risk of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and infant mortality in today’s northern populations. {snip} “Our work ...
The Ebola hoax: questions, answers, and the false belief in the “One It”
2014 10 23
“The Reality Manufacturing Company doesn’t just sell ‘fake paintings’ that are easy to spot. No. They also sell images that are geared to mesh with people’s deeply held instincts and thereby produce rigid false beliefs. People are sure that if they gave up such beliefs, their world would fall apart and blow away in the wind.” ...
New Controversial Theory Suggests "Hobbits" Were Not Human - Who Were These Mysterious Beings?
2014 10 23
The origin of the Hobbit species remains a challenging subject to scientists. The Hobbit’s discovery confirmed the view that the Earth was once populated by many species of human, but new research the Hobbit’s were not human at all! So, who were these mysterious beings? Where did they come from? The idea that our species, Homo sapiens, was the only species of human on ...
Right into enemy hands? ISIS shows off new weapons allegedly airdropped by US (VIDEO)
2014 10 23
Islamic State has published a new video in which a jihadist shows off brand-new American hardware, which was purportedly intended for the Kurds they are fighting in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The undated video, posted by the unofficial IS mouthpiece “a3maq news”, sees a jihadist showing several boxes of munitions with English-language markings, with a parachute spread out on ...
STAGED INFECTION: Has The Ebola ‘Outbreak’ Narrative Fallen Apart?
2014 10 22
Over the past month, the ‘pandemic’ propaganda surrounding the deadly Ebola virus seemed to reach vitriolic levels – raising serious questions about the validity of this current viral outbreak… On Monday of this week, it was reported that 48 people were released and cleared after a 21-day quarantine due to their contact with the now deceased Ebola-stricken patient Thomas Eric ...
More News »